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Community Health Center Provides Care, Compassion for Needy Pregnant Women

By Heather Maloney
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center staff

Pregnancy is an exciting time for most women, but it can also be stressful: you want to do what's best for your baby, stay healthy, and minimize any risks. But if you're also struggling to make ends meet, or don't understand the language spoken all around you, the challenges of pregnancy can be especially difficult.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, every year nearly one million American women deliver babies without receiving adequate medical attention. Many of these new moms face a host challenges, like lack of health insurance, access to quality prenatal care, limited resources, and transportation issues, among other things.

Luckily, there are several local community health centers dedicated to helping these women. Dr. Lucy Chie is the Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology at South Cove Community Health Center, an affiliate of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the premier Asian community health center in Massachusetts. South Cove provides medical and behavioral health services and youth and family programs for approximately 24,000 patients in greater Boston.

"We serve a large Asian immigrant population," Dr. Chie says. "There are many challenges for these patients, not the least of which are language and cultural differences."

Take the Asian diet, for example. Fish and rice are staples, but some types of fish, especially those high in mercury, are not safe for pregnant women to consume in large quantities. And eating lots of white rice during pregnancy can increase a woman's risk for diabetes. It is these types of cultural nuances that Dr. Chie and her team need to be sensitive to.

"We do a lot of counseling on the Asian diet and how to work around it during pregnancy," she says. "But that's just one example. The backbone of our obstetrics program is that we provide culturally sensitive care."

While South Cove provides a host of programs and services for pregnant women, the one they are most proud of kicks in when a woman goes into labor.

"We have about 280 deliveries a year at South Cove," Dr. Chie says. "And probably our most important initiative is our labor coach program."

At South Cove, every expectant mom is matched with a labor coach fluent in her native language. When it's time for labor and delivery, the labor coach is by the patient's side for the entire process, and helps with postpartum care. For as long as the patient is in the hospital, the labor coach acts as both doula and interpreter, while at the same time providing extra comfort and support when cultural issues arise.

But it doesn't end there. Dr. Chie and her team continue to tackle a host of other challenges.

"We are still working to provide all of the other support services that most pregnant patients normally receive, like prenatal classes and breast feeding support," she says.

Another goal is to encourage exercise and counsel patients on the importance of maintaining physical activity during pregnancy. Dr. Chie also hopes to expand the number of nutrition classes, and she continues to explore ways to help new moms who want to breastfeed.

"It can be overwhelming for these patients," Dr. Chie says. "But we really strive to provide them with the best clinical and specialty care we can."

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted July 2010

Contact Information

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
East Campus
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215